The school curriculum needs to focus more on arts and crafts if the creative industries are to have a future in the UK. So says the director of education at West Dean in West Sussex.
Francine Norris, who oversees the college's programme of
courses, which include conservation and visual arts, fears that a
lack of funding and focus on this area of learning and skills
development is likely to damagethe arts industry and museums sector
"At West Dean College there is a broad mix of people, all ages
and all backgrounds, from young artists and trainee conservators,
many supported by our bursary scheme, to mid-career changers and
some people who simply find a sense of purpose and meaning through
making," she says. "The one thing all of these people have in
common is that they were introduced to making skills when they were
at school. This is now changing and it will become increasingly
rare in future for people to have this opportunity."
Ms Norris quoted one recent study that showed the number of arts
GCSEs studied by children had fallen by 14% since The English
Baccalaureate (EBacc) was introduced in 2010.
"The EBacc does not include arts subjects and as this is the
main performance measure for schools currently, it is not
surprising that participation has decreased as both schools and
parents focus on the qualifications that 'count'."
The decline is also evident at university level, she says: "With
virtually the entire sector being excluded from the STEM
designation that attracts teaching and research grants from
government, a recent Crafts Council report identified a 39% decline
in the number of arts and crafts degree courses being offered in
the five years to 2012."
Such courses are expensive to run as they involve costly
materials, skilled technical support, and are based on studio and
"Ironically though, according to the Crafts Council, the overall
number of university applications for the arts and crafts is not
dropping," said Ms Norris. "This is due in the main to the
increasing numbers of overseas students, particularly at
postgraduate level, that still see the UK as a centre of
Lack of support where it is needed could have an impact on the
UK's creative industries sector, which is worth £71.4bn a year and
is world-leading, she added.
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